It’s blueberry season in Colebrook River

On reaching the Hull farm, the men began their work and we started for the berry lots to get the most of our picking done in the cool of the day.  There were so many bushes we could be “choosy” and pick only the biggest of berries.  Time went quickly and soon pails were filled and our stomachs called for lunch, so we’d return to find the men and eat our picnic lunch.

No food ever tasted better than those lunches.  The bracing air of the hills helped give us an appetite.  One lunch time we had a story to tell the men.  How excited we all were, and all talked at once.  The story was this:  Mother and Mrs. Hurd approached a large bush just full of the finest berries and started to fill their pails.  Then Mother saw this large snake raise its head.  She got away fast, and so did the rest of us.  One said it was a black snake, one said a brown striped one.  Then Father asked me, and I replied, “I don’t know, it was a long slithering snake and I ran for the fence”.  Mr. Hurd told Charles, “You were the man, why didn’t you do something?”  Charles, about 6, said, “I had a stone to hit him with, but he shook his tongue at me and I ran!”  The men said the snake was probably harmless and was just eating the nicest berries he could find for lunch, but the experience made us approach every bush very carefully that afternoon.  Charles felt the men needed him to rake hay, so didn’t go with us.

By four the men had the wagons loaded with sweet smelling hay and we were ready to go home.  It was a “scary” business getting on the hay load, as we needed help to step on the shafts, then on the back of the horse and be helped to the top by the driver.  We always rode with Mr. Hurd down the long hill, as our horse “Bill” often stood straight up, then ran down the next hill.  We didn’t want to experience that thrill again.  He was o.k. on the level, so we’d finish the last mile atop Father’s load.

Mother often canned forty quarts of blueberries for winter use.  Fresh blueberry pies, muffins and steamed puddings – just the thoughts of them make my mouth water.

The first “nippy” mornings of late September and early October would send us scurrying downstairs to finish dressing by the warm fire.  How good breakfast smelled and how hungry we were.  On such mornings, one of us was sure to think of nutting, and say, “Let’s go to the woods tonight after school and see if we are going to have nuts this year”.  Father had been before, but he always let us go see for ourselves.  There is nothing nicer than the smell of the woods at this time of year.  We’d visit all the hickory nut trees, the many chestnut trees, and the few butternut trees on the farm and scan each one for sight of nuts.  In plentiful years we could hardly wait for the killing frosts to open the burrs and hard outer shells.  When these came, armed with baskets and pails (Father usually went along with a long pole for knocking the nuts off the branches), we’d go to the woods for the coveted nuts.

We had to gather a few to satisfy our appetites at first, of course.  Chestnuts are hardly known these days, but then we had a feast on them.  We never gathered too many, as we liked them to eat when ripe rather then when dry.  It was fun to sit on the ground near a rock (many were found in the New England pastures) and crack open the shells of the hickory nuts with a small stone for a hammer, and taste once again the nuts we liked so much.  How the squirrels chattered when we came!  Probably wishing we’d leave their winter supply of food alone.  We often heard or startled a partridge as we rustled through the leaves.

With a good supply of nuts we’d go home and spread then to dry.  We always gathered as many hickory nuts and butternuts as we could, as we never bought nuts those days, for nut cake, candy or Christmas cookies.

How the squirrels would work days to get their supply of winter food.  It was fun to see a squirrel with a mouth full of nuts scurrying along the limbs of the trees, off to its winter home in a nearby tree trunk.  Mother told us not to fret that they would go hungry when nuts were plentiful, as they worked from dawn till dark stowing away nuts.

One nutting trip I remember well.  Father took Esther and me to the pasture, where the chestnuts were ready for gathering.  We’d just filled our pails when it began pouring rain.  Father hurried sister and me into a hollow trunk of an old chestnut tree, placed us and two pails of chestnuts inside, took the other pail and ran for home.  We waited and waited for him to return for us after the shower was over, and began calling him when we grew tired of waiting.  Mother went outside for water and heard us calling and noticed then that Father was doing a bit of fall plowing north of the house.  She called to him asking if he knew where we were.  He had completely forgotten us in the hollow tree, but hurried up to bring us home.

Christmas, 1904
Before the aroma of Thanksgiving’s chicken pie and steamed fruit pudding had faded away, we began real plans for Christmas.  So much to be done!  First we counted our hoarded pennies and talked with Mother about ways of “stretching them out”.  Our Christmas lists were made out for Mother to purchase for us and conferences held on gifts for our parents.  Mother would choose one of us to go with her on the great shopping trip of the year.  The lucky one had a wonderful time; no school for that day, and the treat of seeing the stores in their Christmas dress, the toys and the pretty window displays, but best of all the chance to buy their own gifts.  A long cold ride in a sleigh to Winsted – but we loved it.

Then came the gifts to be wrapped and hidden from prying eyes.  The old farmhouse held many secrets; we each chose a place and then it was “Don’t go near that drawer”, “Don’t open that closet door”, or Mother saying, “Don’t go into the parlor”, and wonder of wonders, we didn’t.  There would be no surprises on Christmas morning and we loved the suspense, I think.  We had Mother put away any gift coming by mail, too.  It was all in the Christmas spirit, and we spent a lot of time guessing what was in the boxes and hoping Santa would bring the coveted skates or doll carriage.  We spent happy hours popping pop corn and making long strings of it for the tree; we made strings of cranberries also for the tree.  Then we made paper chains of silver and gold paper we’d saved for decorations, too.

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